Irish Life warns about viability of its sales division


IRISH Life has warned that its 400 sales field force is "significantly underperforming other divisions". Continued obstruction to the proposed reforms would raise serious questions about the "future viability of the division and would threaten jobs".

However, Mr John Tierney, an official of the Manufacturing Science Finance Union (MSF) representing the sales staff, described Irish Life's warning as a "propaganda statement". The union, he added, was "getting contradictory signals from the company" as new products had been introduced and these had been "quite successful".

The company, he added, seemed to be creating problems ahead of the meeting on Wednesday which has been called to vote on the Labour Court recommendation. That "is not helpful", he added.

The MSF has not recommended acceptance. If the recommendations are rejected, the company had stressed that it will implement the new structures from February 3rd. It also warned that non implementation of the proposals could lead to suspensions.

The latest statement from the company noted that in a buoyant market, sales from the field force have been declining in recent years. I his, it stressed, was in contrast to strong growth being experienced in the company's tied agency and brokerage divisions.

Hammering home the point, Irish Life referred to research which "has also clearly demonstrated strong customer demand for a reformed sales and servicing approach with evidence that business is being lost as a result of customer dissatisfaction with the current approach of field staff".

The dispute has been going on for 15 months. The Labour Court recommended a £1 million compensation package in an effort to settle the dispute.

It said Irish Life should increase the lump sum and commission payments offered for the changes. The court accepted the company's argument that changes were required but noted that account must be taken of the uncertainty felt by the employees affected.

Ms Jean Wood, chief executive (Ireland Retail), in last night's statement, said the division could not continue to operate as it does at present. MSF, she added, should look more closely at the experience of direct sales forces in Britain where substantial redundancies occurred because they failed to respond to changes. "If we don't grasp the nettle, exactly the same thing will happen here."